California sparked the farm-to-table revolution thanks to trailblazers such as Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse in Berkley. “We’ve been separated from an organic experience through a kind of fast-food indoctrination that’s been going on for the last 50 years,” she says. “So we are now coming back to our senses and really understand that food is something precious and almost entirely depends on good local ingredients.”
Continuing the trend, chef Jeff Jackson overseas the kitchen at A.R. Valentien at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, one of the most dedicated locavore eateries in the country. A tribute to the California Craftsman movement, A.R. Valentien is a metal-strap, post-and-beam structure with handcrafted wood-framed windows, stained-glass lanterns and a frieze painted with pine boughs.
Jackson recently launched the Artisanal Table program for small groups in a communal setting. The special dinner includes a variety of menu items served family style in four courses: appetizers, main, cheese and dessert, along with wines selected by the chefs to complement each unique meal. The menu changes weekly as seasonal and specialty foods become available from local producers. Total meeting space is 13,000 sf.
The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach offers a ranch-to-resort philosophy with many ingredients sourced from nearby Irvine Ranch. Pelican Hill also makes some of its own food items such as olive oil, harvested from more than 750 olive trees on the 504-acre property dotted with 204 bungalows and 128 villas.
For groups of 15, chef-led cooking classes provide groups with hands-on preparation, seasonal menus and paired wines. The demos feature a 4-course menu with active guest participation and themes ranging from rustic Tuscan cuisine to healthy spa cuisine, fresh California cuisine and summer grill techniques. The classes are set in the gourmet kitchen of a luxurious private villa overlooking the Pacific coastline. Recipe cards and chef’s cooking tips make the perfect parting keepsake.